Skip to main content

Winter’s not as long in Kansas City as it is in, say, Minnesota, but it’s long enough for most of us. While climate change is erratically spiking some very warm days even in December, we can generally count on it being cold, unpredictably icy or snowy, and somewhat gray for at least four months. I don’t want to wish away four months of my life each year, and I like the change of seasons, so I’ve made up my mind to try to appreciate winter. A word or two first about the barriers to appreciation, otherwise known as the companions to winter blues and blahs: lying around indoors looking at screens, not getting enough light and exercise, and dressing inadequately for the cold.

Recently I saw a YouTube about a woman living on an island near the North Pole, where the sun never comes up at all for several months each year. She has five strategies for dealing with the continuous darkness and extreme cold — not to mention the risk of polar bears and avalanches on her morning walk with her dog. Going to bed and getting up the same time each day keeps her diurnal rhythms in place; exposing herself to a special lightbulb when working at her desk; savoring small pleasures like a hot beverage, and of course, exercise. She’s intentional and disciplined about it, so naturally, she reaps the benefits. I instantly googled her light and the reviews affirm that it works! No substitute for the sun itself, but on days that we can’t go out, it might really help with tendencies toward seasonal depression.

By Kristin Riott. Kristin is BTG’s Executive Director.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, who knew something about the matter, said, “the cold is not so cold if you’re not afraid of it”. She and her sisters would rush outdoors from their Little House, fling their arms out wide, breathe deeply, and spin, clamber and run through the breathtaking cold and glittering snow of South Dakota in the 1880s. How necessary this must have been to maintain one’s spirits, when enduring long winters in very cramped quarters. Even when we don’t feel like it, maybe when we feel like it the least, let’s throw ourselves out there. If you don’t have the All Trails app on your phone, I recommend it for excellent reviews of area trails. Plan to get out this weekend and take a several-mile walk, dogs and other friends in tow. By the way, I want to get better at dendrology (the science of trees), and learn to identify more of them just by their bark when I’m out on a winter hike.

I’ll amend Laura’s wisdom when venturing out: “The cold is not so cold when you’re dressed for it”.  This is an area where I need to improve—I don’t love being bulky, and I just don’t have the habit of putting on enough layers. After several hours working at home on my computer in the house’s coldest corner, which of course has the best wi-fi signal, I get so cold that my husband has to check me for rigor mortis. Bridging The Gap staff member John Fish recommends long underwear as a foundation for winter wear. I’d like an insulated vest, too, which doesn’t feel so bulky but keeps the torso very warm.

And now, to wax rhapsodic about winter itself.

I love it because I can see the bare branches, the skeletons of trees against the most spectacular and unexpected colors of sky. In the evening, the fine ends of their branches look like black lace on navy blue, like ballgowns, and their movement in the wind is like waltzing. And the moon, if she is present –how welcome her glowing white circle is against the darkness, and how beautiful the moonlight on the snow.

I love the flashes of bird color against the austere black, white and gray of the landscape. I want to find a solar-powered ice melt-er to keep them better supplied with water, even more critical than seed.

I love snuggling under comforters and quilts on sofas and beds, and I pull them over and around my head until I’m just like a squirrel in a hole. I love that my dog is cool enough that he wants to come up on said beds and sofas, and snuggle.

I love the fact that there isn’t as much to do in winter. Fewer have tos and expectations. I like that January and February, as my friend says, are made for cleaning out closets and organizing. Some winter, maybe I’ll do that.

I love that, for as long as possible in a changing world, winter is still here with us.